By Michael Lanza
Sunlight still lit up the trees high up the mountainside above me, visible through the canopy of maple, oak, and tulip poplar trees, but down in the bottom of the valley, dusk had settled in at least an hour earlier. Rosebay rhododendron and a variety of ferns carpeted the ground. I had the trail all to myself hiking to Moore Cove, in the Pisgah National Forest of western North Carolina; and save for the songs of some birds and the soft conversation of water flowing over rocks, the silence exerted an immediate calming effect—like I had taken a happy pill. It’s lovely to have a piece of Appalachian forest to yourself.
Then I reached Moore Cove and gazed up at a 50-foot waterfall free falling in a veil of silvery water over the lip of a deep, rock alcove.
While I do most of my hiking and backpacking in the West, a region known for its big vistas, I first fell in love with hiking in the Appalachian Mountains—which have big vistas, too. But these older, Eastern peaks deliver some of their best moments in more intimate scenery, where you’re in the scene, standing in the stream or walking behind the waterfall—as you can do at Moore Cove.
And few areas of the country have waterfalls of such beauty and in such abundance as western North Carolina.
I leapt at an opportunity to spend a week last October chasing waterfalls, fall foliage color, and classic Southern Appalachian views while dayhiking in the mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C., and backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I hiked to numerous waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests and Gorges State Park, including famous ones like Crabtree Falls (lead photo at top of story), more obscure but pretty ones like Roaring Fork Falls, and the tallest in the East, 811-foot Whitewater Falls.
The photo gallery below spotlights several of the waterfalls I saw.
See all of my stories about dayhiking and backpacking in the western North Carolina mountains, including:
“The 12 Best Dayhikes Along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway.”
“In the Garden of Eden: Backpacking the Great Smoky Mountains.”
“Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell.”
“The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes” for a description of a hike along the Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Tell me what you think.
I spent a lot of time writing this story, so if you enjoyed it, please consider giving it a share using one of the buttons below, and leave a comment or question at the bottom of this story. I’d really appreciate it.
You live for the outdoors. The Big Outside helps you get out there. Join now and a get free e-guide!
5 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: Waterfalls of the North Carolina Mountains”
I love this and all of the pictures and directions and so full of helpful information!!
Thank you, Mary.
Maybe just Googling stuff like that, there’s a lot of mistakes when I Google tallest waterfall in XX state or region. Primarily by big publications and terrible websites like onlyinyourstate. That may include the drop of Lower Whitewater Falls, which is 1.75 miles downstream of Whitewater Falls. The river drops ~1200 feet from the top of Whitewater to the bottom of Lower. There’s also 6 or so waterfalls upstream too, the river drops ~1800 feet over that whole course of 3.5 miles.
I’m glad you stopped by a few lesser known waterfalls because most of those are very touristy. Roaring Fork Falls is one of my favorites, always worth a quick stop when hiking in that valley.
You have a mistake in your post, Whitewater Falls is nowhere near 811 feet. Not sure where you got that number. Even if you include Lower Whitewater Falls downstream in SC it would only be around 600 feet. Whitewater Falls is sometimes listed as 411 feet. Our most well-known waterfall book publisher Kevin Adams says it is between 350-400 feet and there have been no official measurements. There’s also no consensus about the tallest waterfall in the East. Amicalola Falls in GA and Crabtree Falls in VA are listed as 729 feet and 1,080 feet, but from experience Crabtree Falls seems like 3 distinct waterfalls. Amicalola Falls is probably the tallest. Just thought I’d go on that friendly diatribe lol.
Hi Zachary, thanks for letting me know about that mistake–I hate making dumb mistakes! Actually, I’m not quite certain where I got that stat about Whitewater Falls being the tallest in the East, although I know it includes the lower falls, and I thought it was an authoritative source.
And yes, I also loved Roaring Fork Falls.